What Are Common Sailing Commands?

Common Sailing Commands: A Guide for Sailors Everywhere

Sailing is an incredibly fulfilling and exciting way of exploring the world – but it’s also an incredibly complex one, requiring knowledge, skill, and expertise to master the craft and get the most out of your sailing experience!

One of the most important aspects of sailing is learning and understanding the various commands used to control a boat – without them, sailing would be difficult, and potentially dangerous! In this article, we’ll go over some of the most common sailing commands, so you can feel more confident in your journey on the open seas!

What is Sailing?

Sailing is a form of exploration that utilizes the wind as its primary source of propulsion to move a boat across open waters – from oceans to lakes to rivers, sailing is an activity enjoyed by millions worldwide!

Generally speaking, there are two types of sailing vessels: sailboats (or yachts) powered by sails alone, and motorboats equipped with an engine for additional propulsion when needed (or when wind is not available).

Regardless, both types require sailors to be knowledgeable about operating their vessels – and that includes understanding basic sailing commands!

What are the Common Sailing Commands?

Here are some of the most common commands you’ll encounter while out on the open waters:

Standby – This command is used to alert other crew members that they should be ready to execute an operation once given further instruction (e.g., “STANDBY TO RAISE THE MAINSAIL”).
Made – This command indicates that a particular operation has been completed (e.g., “MAINSAIL IS MADE”).
Cast Off – This command signals that all dock lines have been released from the dock or mooring buoy in preparation for departure (e.g., “CAST OFF ALL LINES”).
Heading Up/Bearing Away – This command tells crew members to adjust their vessel’s heading either upwind or downwind respectively (e.g., “HEADING UP 20 DEGREES”).
Sheet In/Sheet Out – These commands tell crew members to either bring in or let out sheets (ropes used to control sails) as needed in order to adjust sail trim (e.g., “SHEET IN THE JIB”).
Tacking & Jibing – These two terms refer to changing direction against or with the direction of wind respectively, tacking involves turning through an angle greater than 90 degrees while jibing involves turning through an angle less than 90 degrees (e.g., “TACKING TO PORT SIDE”).
Hoisting The Sails – This command tells crew members that they need to raise their sails into position for maximum efficiency (e.g., “HOIST THE MAINSAIL”).
Trimming The Sails – This command tells crew members they need to adjust their sails so they are properly positioned in relation to wind direction (e.g., “TRIM THE JIB SHEET IN 5 FEET”).
Maintaining Course & Speed – This command instructs crew members on keeping their vessel on course while maintaining an appropriate speed for conditions (e.g., “MAINTAIN COURSE AT 5 KNOTS”).
**Answering A Call Of Man Overboard **– This command alerts other crew members that someone has fallen overboard, upon hearing this call all other activities should stop immediately until further instructions are given (e.g., “MAN OVERBOARD! DROP ANCHOR NOW!”)

Dropping Anchor

The last command we’ll cover is dropping anchor – this is done when you need your vessel to remain stationary, whether it be because you’re fishing or just taking a break from sailing!

To drop anchor simply release it from its housing at bow or stern until it reaches bottom, usually it’s best practice then tie off rope attached to anchor securely on deck so vessel won’t drift away during your stay!


Learning these basic sailing commands can help make your journey easier, safer, and more enjoyable overall – remember that practice makes perfect when it comes down mastering them! With time and dedication you’ll soon find yourself confidently maneuvering your vessel like a pro sailor – so don’t be afraid give it a try today 🙂

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